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The Opposition's deputy leader has yet again lashed the Morrison government over its handling of Sino-Australian relations.
Labor's Richard Marles lambasted the federal government for being the first government not to have a "relationship of substance" with Beijing since the seventies.
Appearing on the ABC's Insiders on Sunday morning, he said the coalition needed to pull its finger out.
"The fact that there is not a clear relationship between this government and the government of China is inept, patently inept," he told host David Speers.
Canberra's lack of communication with Beijing has been highly publicised, particularly former Trade minister Simon Birmingham and his successor Dan Tehan who desperately seek clear-the-air talks in a bid to avoid further sanctions on Australian exports, yet their calls have gone unanswered.
Instructing the Morrison government to do "diplomacy right", Mr Marles was pressed to clarify what that entails. He said the government lacked "ballast" and an ability to "manage relationships".
"We have to take responsibility for our own relationships," he said.
"At the height of the Cold War, when tensions are far more difficult between what is going on with China and Australia now, you have relationships of substance between the Soviet governments, it can be done.
"You make the effort to reach out."
He said while the government was right to stand up for Australia's interests, including activities in the South China Sea, it needed to carefully assess its approach.
Mr Marles pointed to Japan's complex relationship with China and despite their history, manage to maintain a relationship with Beijing.
China has repeatedly called on Australia to take "concrete actions" and make concessions on a series of stances it deems provocative, such as Canberra's position on Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as its restrictions on Chinese investment.
Yet Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly warned China it will not sacrifice its national interests or security to appease the Communist Party of China.
Former prime minister and China expert Kevin Rudd has repeatedly called on the Morrison government to "do more and talk less".
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